Last week, the Aging Out Institute (AOI) announced a new award designed to recognize individuals who are helping foster youth to succeed when they leave foster care. AOI introduced the eight judges for its inaugural AOI Best Practice Awards, including several prominent researchers and leaders of organizations dedicated to helping this population.
“It is important for [foster youth] to realize that there are, indeed, people who care about them, that there are people who want to help them,” said John DeGarmo, one of the judges.
According to a 2013 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, aging out of foster care can be challenging for many youth. Often lacking basic knowledge, resources and support, foster youth are at a huge disadvantage when attempting to transition to adulthood. Of the nation’s 23,000 young adults who leave foster care at 18 or 21 years old, more than a fifth become homeless, and by age 24, only half will be employed, the report said.
AOI, a web-based social enterprise, aims to connect those involved in the foster care system with resources to ease the transition into living independently. Since 2010, AOI has worked on a three-phase plan, starting with launching a website that helps transition-age youth, foster parents and professionals navigate the process of aging out of the system.
According to a recent blog post, AOI intends to not only acknowledge the contributions of advocates across the country but also work with the award winners to publish papers and webinars that highlight successful strategies for helping foster youth age out of the system. In building a collection of award-winning strategies over time, AOI aims to become a central resource to help those starting new foster care programs and the foster care community as a whole.
Open to foster parents and organizations focused on helping transition-age youth, the AOI awards highlight four main categories: housing, education, employment and supportive relationships. Applications for these awards can be submitted next year from January 1 to February 28, and winners will be announced in July.